Tortilleria Nixtamal

I found the best Mexican restaurant in Queens and you can go there and catch a soccer game on tv or just catch up with friends and enjoy a feast of tacos.  I saw Tortilleria Nixtamal on the Food Network and I’m sure other channels, but I had to make a stop there before my flight and after I ran a short race.  Besides making and selling tortillas wholesale, this place knows how to serve up authentic Mexican tastiness.IMG_1457

The restaurant is situated directly in the neighborhood of Corona NY.  I wish I lived next door.

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I had to start with my first authentic tamale, and it was delicious corny goodness.   I chose the chipotle chicken and pork in a spicy red salsa tamale.  I also tasted the sweet corn tamale, and that was very good as well.

IMG_1453 I ordered (from left to right – Chorizo, Pollo, Carnitas, and Skate Tacos)  The Chorizo taco has house made chorizo sausage, with beans avocado salsa and cilantro.  It had quite a kick.  The pollo (chicken) taco had crunchy carrots, onion and chili salsa with avocado salsa.  The Carnitas (slow roasted pork) was very tasty as well, but what wouldn’t be tasty cooked in lard, this taco also was topped with cilantro and onion.  And finally, I had the skate fish taco, it had a fried skate wing topped with pico de gallo.  I love the fact that although the protien is heavy on the taco, this food always has a fresh finish not some lazy jarred salsa, you can tste the care that is put into these tacos.IMG_1454 We had a sweet and salty treat with the fried plaintain order on the side, they were candy sweet, and topped with Cotija cheese and some sort of green salsa, I think avocado salsa.IMG_1455 My friend and foodie homie enjoyed the vegetarian sharings that Tortilleria Nixtimal has (from left to right –  Nopales (cactus) tacos topped with tomato, radish, onion, and melted Oaxaca cheese.  Rajas (Chilis (Grilled Pablano, Jalapeno) taco was topped with tomatillos, tomato and queso fresco, Frijoles (Refried beans) with avocado and queso fresco, and Pescado (Fish) with pico de gallo.IMG_1456We finished the meal off with a deliciously moist Tres Leches cake to share.  I know its not really part of the tourist trap we call NYC, but it isn’t far.  To get to this tiny hidden gem in Corona, you need to take the E train to Jamaica Center and then hop on the Q23 bus toward East Elmhurst Ditmars Blvd via 108th St. to 108th St. 7th Ave. and walk 3mins to the restaurant, or you can be like me and just catch an Uber (I know I’m spoiled).  But, trust me it’s worth the trip.

 

Essence Fest 2015 Eats (Day Three)

Ahhh Day Three at Essence Festival 2015…

After a really fancy meal at Emeril’s Delmonico, and super casual food from the Essence Festival Food Truck Rally we closed out Essence Festival food fun with a stop at Chef’s John Besh and Aarón Sánchez collaboration restaurant Johnny Sánchez.

Our dinner at Johnny Sánchez was absolutely delicious.

We started with chips and salsa and of course we had to have guacamole.

They have these amazing crispy brussels sprouts with Cotija cheese, potatoes and peppers with an outstanding spicy vinaigrette.  I could eat that as a meal by itself, and be very satisfied.  In fact I think the next trip, if they can have that boxed up for me as I arrive in New Orleans, I will set that up for sure.IMG_1626

I ordered the beef tongue tacos, well because, I had to.  I wanted to try something that I never had before, and it was not a mistake.  The meet was so tender, and flavorful, and the fresh toppings that it was served with had the perfect crunch.IMG_1627
Dessert was like it was from a completely different restaurant, that is not a bad thing.  What I mean is that the tacos are so casual, and the desserts were so refined, it was a perfect ending to the meal.

My sister Renee had the best dessert of Masa Cake with all sorts of corny yummy goodness, there was buttermilk foam, roasted corn, and grilled peaches. AMAZING! 
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The other dessert was a Lime Tres Leches with a very flavorful lime sorbet.  Though it was tasty it was a little drier of a cake than I would expect, maybe more like a biscuit than a cake, nonetheless it was still very good.IMG_1629

Finally the stop that most tourist take in New Orleans in the later hours for something sweet, yep you guessed it, Café Du Monde for fresh hot beignets.

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If you have never explored the culinary oasis that is New Orleans, I suggest you make a special trip, and Essence Fest during 4th of July weekend is an excellent time to visit.

Biscuits

When I moved to south Georgia for my job, I knew I would need to make the best of the move.  So I challenged myself to get as many southern recipes down as I could.  Some of the main things that I wanted to get down was fried chicken, shrimp and grits, gumbo and biscuits.  I fried some amazing chicken, but I will get to that in a future post.

I have learned that whipping up biscuits at a moments notice is really not that overwhelming.  They take no time to mix up and pop in the oven.

I found a cookbook on amazon for biscuits specifically, and I know in there lies the best biscuit secrets.  The book is called Southern Biscuits by by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart.

I still have some perfecting to do, I would like to get my biscuits appearance to be more plump and fluffy.  My family enjoyed these biscuits and gave them the thumbs up, but I want them to pass the southern test.

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2 1/4 cups of self rising flour

1/4 cup chilled butter cut into 1/4 in pieces

1/4 cup chilled butter cunt into 1/2 in pieces

1 cup buttermilk

Combine by hand the flour and the 1/4 in pieces of butter until well crumbled.  Add the 1/2 in pieces of butter to the flour mixture and add 3/4 cup buttermilk.  Once the mixture comes together like a dough, turn it onto a floured surface and flatten and fold 3 times to create layers.  Finally flatten the dough into 1/3in round.  Cut the biscuits out of the dough and bake in a buttered pan for 10-14 minutes at 425F.

 

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After we enjoyed the biscuits as breakfast we enjoyed the biscuits as dessert in a strawberry shortcake with hand whipped cream with a touch of vanilla and sugar, and macerated strawberries.  For a nice touch, I sprinkled the desserts with Turbanado sugar

 

Essence Fest 2015 Eats (Day Two)

Day two of the Essence Festival food tour started with my leftover banana bread that I brought for my trip here.  Side note it is the best recipe I have found for moist on the inside crisp on the outside banana bread.  I am sure you can guess whose recipe might be my favorite, and what I think is the best, you guessed it Mr. Cronut™ himself Dominique Ansel, click here to get the recipe.  Ok that was a long side note, but I had to share.

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I was able to grab a plate of red beans and rice with a piece of french bread for a snack.

IMG_1571Later, I found the Essence Festival Food Truck Experience sponsored by Coca-Cola.  One of the trucks, Whoodoo BBQ, introduced me to their “Ghetto Burger”

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I know what you’re thinking, but I went out on a limb and ordered it.  The guy on the truck described it as “A big ole burger on a Po-boy bun with some special sauce”  I was sold.  It really didn’t disappoint.  The burger was formed right in front of us, and the seasoning was awesome, all the way through.  The sauce on the burger, I thought I would need to scrape it off, but I ate it all, without even getting a drop on my clothes.

Day Three’s highlight was a stop at Chef’s John Besh and Aarón Sánchez collaboration restaurant Johnny Sánchez.

Essence Fest 2015 Eats and Treats (Day One)

Every year my sister (Renee) and I attend Essence Festival in New Orleans.  The trip started out as an opportunity for us and several girlfriends to hangout and party with a purpose every year, and has morphed into a networking, celebration of our passions.

1045159_10103590926830664_1309361523_n Every year we have at least one nice dinner, to feed my passion for food.  We have dined at Emeril’s New Orleans, NOLA, John Besh’s Borgne and American Sector (when it was managed by his company), Cochon, and several others throughout our 9 or 10 year traditional visit.

This year day one we had reservations at another Emeril Legasse restaurant.  We dined at Emeril’s Delmonico this visit.  Emeril’s Delmonico is the only restaurant in New Orleans that dry ages their own steak.  My sister had the New York Strip and it was very tasty.

My favorite dishes were the barbecued shrimp and grit cake and the pork cheeks over dirty rice, both were appetizers.  The non stop supply of fresh cornbread didn’t hurt either.  
IMG_1530 IMG_1529 IMG_1528 IMG_1526IMG_1531For my entree I had the paneéd swordfish over risotto, it was so light and had a great crunch with the fennel salad on top.  I am absolutely a texture gal.

If you are looking to be wined and dined, enjoy a great night out at Emeril’s Delmonico.  Ladies…they even escort you to the restroom (offering their arm to lead you).

 

Simple Summer Grilling Pork Tenderloin

I don’t know about you, but I have started this summer super busy, and this summer in South Georgia has proven to be a hot one.  So my interest in babysitting anything on the grill is pretty low right now.  But, one of my favorite go to summer meals is pork tenderloin and any vegetable off of the grill.

This particular day I chose the asparagus to grill, simply with olive oil and salt.

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The pork tenderloin was rubbed in a mixture of garlic, onion and chipotle chili powders, along with brown sugar and salt.  After the meat sat seasoned for about 30 minutes, I grilled it on all sides.

IMG_1317 I love cooking pork tenderloin, because it cooks fairly quickly, and if you do it right it stays moist as well.

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Season the 2 pounds of pork tenderloin with salt and pepper well

mix a rub of:

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

3 tablespoons of chipotle chili powder

4 tablespoons of brown sugar

coat the tenderloins with the seasoning and allow the pork to sit for at least 20 minutes, before grilling.  Enjoy

Toast in Asbury Park

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a long standing tradition with a few friends, that starts with a 5 mile “trot” not really competitive run (Spring Lake Five) and ends with a visit to Confections of a Rock Star and a visit to this place for Brunch.  Toast in Asbury Park, is a must stop when ever I am at the shore.

Toast prides themselves on using only the freshest ingredients, and making every food experience better than the last.  A must try is the Bananas Foster French Toast, I could eat the bananas foster sauce on ice cream or just by the spoonful.

 

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Another show stopper is the Bella Nutella, its french toast stuffed with Nutella…Yeeeesssss!
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Another standout for our table was the Crab Cake Benedict.  And the home fries have the perfect crisp, every time.
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We had to capture the spread on the whole table.  Other items that the table selected were, red velvet pancakes, blue berry pancaked and one of their several selections of scrambles.  When you go, not if you go, don’t skimp on the OJ, it is freshly squeezed.  This destination has little to do with toast, and more to do with all of the other awesome options that you can select.  I didn’t even mention the lunch selections.  My friends and I agree that it is a judgement free zone, meaning if anyone orders 2 meals, there is no judgement.

Until next time, eat well, and be well. – Foodie Engineer

Confections of a Rock Star Tradition

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Every year we traditionally start the summer with a 5 mile run at the Jersey Shore.  No, not the Jersey Shore you have seen on MTV, this Jersey Shore is filled with beautiful homes, with opulence and great landscaping.  The Spring Lake 5 is an opportunity for myself and a few friends to “trot” through the neighborhood, and dream of owning vacation homes.  Part of the tradition of course involves food, since I am a participant.

One of the stops that we make is at Confections of a Rock Star.  This brilliantly branded bakery, is amazing, with music themed selections, and selections named after it surrounding community of Asbury Park, NJ.  The bakery has a great location near shopping and great food, and the cupcakes are rock star genius.  I didn’t take a picture of all four cupcakes because as you can see on suffered in transit, but hey the car was toasty and we went for beers after buying them.

The good news is that the cupcakes change frequently, the bad news is the website doesn’t reflect the changes, so call ahead if you want something specific.  But, trust me you will not go wrong, they even have Vegan selections.

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Confection of a Rock StarOne selection that is certainly not Vegan is this colossal treat, again, I didn’t catch the name, but it is sweet and salty and ooey and gooey, and you will want to rock out after a bite of this baconey goodness.

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In an upcoming post I will share an awesome breakfast brunch spot that is also a stop during our Jersey Shore visit.  Until then eat well and be well. – Foodie Engineer

 

Foodie Engineer Visits Rachael Ray (Day 1)

After my journey of becoming one of the 3 finalists for The Rachael Ray Show’s First Culinary Tuition Competition, I was invited to New York City to compete for the final prize of Culinary School Tuition to International Culinary Center, formerly The French Culinary Institute.

In my last post, I shared the entire process of how I was selected as a finalist.  In this post I wanted to bring you along on my 2 day visit to The Rachael Ray Show.

Let me start by saying I have a great appreciation for the tv production and directing process.  There is a great deal of waiting involved in recording just a few minutes of great tv.  When I arrived the night before call time I was way more calm than I had been earlier in the day at work.  I was a nervous wreck, I couldn’t focus on anything but wonder, what the show producers had planned for us, all unknown to us (the finalists) of course.  I had a late flight in to the city, so I walked the streets of my favorite city to find some food and relax before the next morning’s activities began.

My boyfriend came to the hotel in the morning to send me off to the first day of taping, we weren’t able to bring anyone with us to the taping activities.  The first day I met one of the show’s team members and the other finalist in the lobby of the hotel that we stayed at.  We got in an SUV with a driver to go, who knows where, we were left in the dark.  As we approached SoHo, I knew exactly where we were heading, but I didn’t want to ruin it for my new friends (the contestants).  We were parked up the block from The International Culinary Center for what seemed like an hour, while the cameras and sound got set up.  Once it was confirmed that we were going to visit the ICC, the nerves kind of all boiled into great excitement.  We entered the Institute and were greeted by one of the Chef’s of the school Chef Candy Argondizza the Vice President of Culinary and Pastry Arts.  Chef Candy toured us through all of the floors and the famous hallways of the ICC.  We got to see the extensive culinary library, the classrooms, which were kitchens, and finally the hallway of hand prints of several of the chefs that have visited the schools.  I was so excited to put my hands in Chef Jacques Pépin’s hand prints.

Little did I know, not sixty minutes later I was going to be surprised, with meeting Chef Jacques Pépin.  And not only was I going to meet this member of culinary royalty, I was getting a cooking lesson from him.  After I got a kiss on the cheek from this culinary legend, we proceeded to wait for the kitchens to be set up for the segment.  The segment included Chef Pépin cooking 3 dishes with a select amount of ingredients.  It took him a total of 25 minutes to make everything.  He made 2 dishes with all parts of the chicken, and finally a dessert of apples caramelized in sugar.  I wish I got photo’s but we ate it, immediately and the producers and crew finished it off.

Star Struck

Star Struck

To wrap up the time in the kitchen, we were presented with our first challenge in the finals.  We were challenged with a basket of ingredients (potatoes, chicken, mushrooms, and asparagus) to make at least one dish using all ingredients and we had to have 2 of each.  I am not sure how the points shook out, but I know I had a good effort put forth, by doing a dish with dark meat and a slightly gummy potato puree, and white meat with pan roasted potato and carrots, and slightly burnt mushrooms.  Take a look at the cooking competition footage on my youtube channel Foodie Engineer.  Once that challenge was over, we had hours and hours of taping interviews.  Imagine chopped and the confession like interview.  I was asked several questions in the present tense as if I was in the kitchen cooking right then, and I had to give answers to provide footage for the editors.  Very cool process.  We wrapped taping at midnight and were set for call time the next morning, so I woke up pretty tired the next morning.  The next post will be the conclusion of the experience and I will share the great learnings and my plans going forward.

Thanks again, for riding with me on this journey.

Foodie Engineer

Tuition Competition

One day in early March, I got a text from my sister Ask Dr. Renee This text was very common since we are either texting here and there throughout the day or calling each other at the end of the day.  This specific text said check your email.  When I got around to checking my email after work that day, I saw a link for the Rachael Ray Show.  I clicked on the link and it was a video of Rachael Ray announcing the show’s Culinary Tuition Competition.  Immediately I was intrigued.  The final prize was International Culinary Center tuition, and a 5 day culinary vacation in Cancun.  I have to tell you if all that was required was an essay on why I should be the winner, I would have been all over it instantly.  But after reading the entire process, I understood that the first round would require I make a video.  Now I don’t have my usual crew with me here in Valdosta, I have a DSLR, that I hadn’t used a ton, and never used it for video, and I have a tripod that was still in the box.  So in mind, I thought , “Okay, there really isn’t anything stopping me.”  The rules required that I send a video in about why I need a fresh start in career, and include me cooking my favorite meal.  I whipped up my lamb chops, cauliflower mash, and brussels sprouts.  I shared on the video how I felt about my career path, and sent the video in with a prayer of something that brought change to my life, what ever that looked like.

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Lamb Chops with brussels sprouts and cauliflower puree

After a few weeks, I received a call from a producer at the show.  She told me I was in the top 20, I was stunned.  Because I entered thinking; “well, at least I tried, but I didn’t really cook anything super special, or fancy”.  So round 1 mission accomplished, up next round 2… The Interview.  I just decided to be completely myself, so I made sure to share everything that I wanted to, regarding needing to follow my dreams and step out on faith and out of my comfort zone.  By the time I finished the call, I was so at peace that I just felt like “I’ve done all that I can do, and if it is for me it will be for me”.  Sure enough…Top 10, yep Top 10.  Now I am totally visualizing myself as a finalist.

I will share the rest of my experience in my next post. But I would love for you to see the video that I created and submitted to the show, and please subscribe to my page youtube.com.  I will be adding cooking videos regularly.

Wow, what a ride, wait until I share the experience of being in NY for the show with you all.